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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Healthy Macaroni and Cheese: Recipe Makeover

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healthy macaroni and cheese recipe

I LOVE Macaroni and Cheese.

The husband reallllly loves Macaroni and Cheese.

And don’t get me wrong, it’s a great once-in-a-while-guilty-pleasure sort of dish. There’s just something so comforting about that cheesy, warm, gooey, starchy goodness that just makes you happy.

But I was tired of only having Mac & Cheese in moderation. I wanted to make it a full dinner, but without the extra fat and calories of the original. (Oh and let me be clear, when I’m talking about Mac & Cheese I’m talking about homemade / from scratch – not the boxed versions which don’t count as real Mac & Cheese 🙂 )

So I scoured the web for recipes to see if I could find some inspiration. I came across this recipe on CookingLight and thought it was the perfect starting point. I made a few modifications (my modified recipe is below), and it turned out just like the original – super cheesy and flavorful!

Most Mac & Cheese recipes use the following ingredients:

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I lightened up this recipe by using less of the higher-fat ingredients, and substituting in whole grains and vegetables.

My Ingredient List

  • 8 ounces whole-wheat elbow noodles, (2 cups)
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped broccoli (or fresh broccoli florets – cut small)
  • 1 10oz bag of baby spinach or baby kale (optional)
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 3/4 cups 1% milk, divided
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (omit if you don’t like the flavor of mustard)
  • Optional: 1/8-1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (to give it some kick!)

The Directions

Step 1: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.

Step 2: Add frozen (or fresh) broccoli to a pan over medium heat, saute with minced garlic, crushed red pepper, and a pinch of salt until slightly tender. Add kale/spinach towards the end and cook until the greens are wilted.

Step 3: Meanwhile, heat 1 1/2 cups milk in another large pot over medium-high heat until just simmering. Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup milk, flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl until combined. Add the flour mixture to the simmering milk; return to a simmer and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.

Step 4: Remove from the heat and whisk in Cheddar, Parmesan and mustard until the cheese is melted.

Step 5: Drain the pasta and add to the cheese sauce. Add your veggies into the pasta mixture, and heat through (on low heat) until everything is combined.

Optional: Sprinkle some black pepper on top before serving. 

This recipe makes 6 huge servings, and each serving has only ~250 calories, ~8g fat, ~7g fiber and ~14g protein!

Now that’s a Mac & Cheese recipe I can get behind! Oh and did I mention, the husband loved it too 🙂

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Print Recipe
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Healthy Mac & Cheese Makeover

Macaroni and cheese is pure comfort food. But what if you want to enjoy it more often? I lightened up this recipe by using less of the higher-fat ingredients and substituting in whole grains and vegetables.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 252kcal

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces whole-wheat elbow noodles (2 cups)
  • 10 ounce package frozen chopped broccoli or fresh broccoli florets - cut small
  • 10 oz bag of baby spinach or baby kale optional
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic minced
  • 1 3/4 cups 1% milk divided
  • 3 tablespoons All Purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard omit if you don't like the flavor of mustard
  • Optional: 1/8-1/4 tsp crushed red pepper to give it some kick!

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  • Add frozen (or fresh) broccoli to a pan over medium heat, saute with minced garlic, crushed red pepper, and a pinch of salt until slightly tender. Add kale/spinach towards the end and cook until the greens are wilted.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 1/2 cups milk in another large pot over medium-high heat until just simmering. Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup milk, flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl until combined. Add the flour mixture to the simmering milk; return to a simmer and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and whisk in Cheddar, Parmesan and mustard until the cheese is melted.
  • Drain the pasta and add to the cheese sauce. Add your veggies into the pasta mixture, and heat through (on low heat) until everything is combined.
  • Optional: Sprinkle some black pepper on top before serving.

Notes

Adapted from CookingLight

Nutrition

Serving: 1.5g | Calories: 252kcal | Carbohydrates: 30.9g | Protein: 14.5g | Fat: 8.2g | Sodium: 536mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 5g
macaroni and cheese - easy healthy recipes, tasty healthy recipes, delicious healthy recipes, vegetarian healthy recipes, quick and easy recipes for picky eaters

Posted In…

Entrees ·

From healthy versions of favorites to cozy curries, these main courses are sure to bring some new recipes to your family’s table.

52 responses to “Healthy Macaroni and Cheese: Recipe Makeover”

  1. Best. Mac’n’Cheese. Ever.
    I always liked the gooey-ness and creaminess of M&C, but it somehow always felt too heavy and over-flavored. This sauce with less cheese and light milk is so much better, still flavorful and creamy, but not overpowering and goes very well with the veggies (I used broccoli and cauliflower and a small diced jalapeno for extra kick). Plus this is sooo easy to make and super filling! Will totally be added to my “quick-but-yummy-weeknight-meals”-list 😀

    • Woohoo! That is awesome Julia – I’m so happy to hear that! Love the addition of the jalapeño and cauliflower too!

  2. Its almost the end of lent and I was getting tired of the same boring meals when I stumbled upon this gem of recipe. It was so yummy! I also added some diced up zucchini and squash because they were on hand and I needed to use them up.
    By the way, I love all your pictures of food! They all look so good that it motivates me to eat clean!

    • Oh great!! I love the idea of adding some diced zucchini and squash to this recipe too 🙂 Thanks for letting me know, and I’m so happy that my recipes and photos are motivating you to eat healthier!

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